Khalil Mack – OLB, Buffalo – Round 1, Pick 5.
The list starts with Khalil Mack, an elite athlete and a rare talent who will enter the season as a top candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Many draft experts had Mack falling no farther than pick three to Jacksonville with some even arguing that Mack should be the number one pick in the draft. The Oakland Raiders were also widely considered a prime candidate to trade down but when Mack was still available at pick five, drafting him was a no-brainer.
Mack is a 6-foot-3, 251-pound physical specimen with a lightning first step and a lethal combination of explosiveness and power. Many scouts have compared him to 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Denver Broncos OLB Von Miller. Miller had an outstanding rookie season, notching an impressive 11 sacks, and the hope is Mack will be able to have that same kind of impact.
Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver could not be more excited about being able to coach a player of Mack’s caliber and versatility, telling 95.7 The Game in an interview:
“With Khalil the first thing that he does is he’s a power rusher with the ability to bend. So, pass rush is number one when he’s playing outside linebacker and when he’s playing with his hand in the dirt. That’s gonna be his main function is to set edges in the run game and get after the quarterback. And that’s what he does best. He also the ability or enough ability to flip and move and run in space that when we do want to or need to drop him into coverage.”
Dennis Allen has echoed similar thoughts, adding, “He can do everything that we’re going to ask him to do, so, we’re excited about the versatility. He is a three-down player. He is going to be able to do a lot of the things that we’re going to ask him to do and have a huge impact on helping this defense and getting this defense where this defense needs to be.”
Versatility is what has been touted the most about Mack thus far, so expect Tarver and Allen to use Mack the same way Denver uses Miller. It also will help that Dennis Allen was Von Miller’s defensive coordinator during his rookie season, so Allen already has a blueprint in which to use for Mack.
Mack will play primarily on the weak-side of Oakland’s 4-3 defense, rushing the quarterback from a stand-up position. On passing downs he is strong enough to put his hand in the dirt and create havoc from the ground. With a revamped defensive line, Mack should be able to roam free and terrorize opposing quarterbacks from every which way possible. No Raider topped more than six sacks last season, so here is to hoping that Khalil Mack doubles that total on his own.